During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, a providential blend of theologians, saints, and mystics continue the fruitful development of the doctrine of Mary Co-redemptrix.
The mystical dimension begins to play an important role in this and in later periods of Coredemption’s doctrinal development, with great spiritual figures such as St. Catherine of Siena and St. Bridget of Sweden contributing to the harmony between theology and spirituality within the Church. The Holy Spirit can and does use his prophetic gifts through chosen souls as lights to guide the great bark of Tradition and theology upon a particular path of doctrinal development.
What the revelations received by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque are to the development of the doctrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the revelations of St. Faustina Kowalska to Divine Mercy in our own times, (1) the Revelations of St. Bridget are to the medieval progress of the doctrine of Mary Co-redemptrix. For the Revelations convey to us in the words of the Blessed Mother herself that, “My son and I redeemed the world.”(2)
The Immaculate One’s compassion and its fruitfulness at Calvary is championed by the prominent theologian, Richard of St. Lawrence († 1230), who speaks of the Mother’s reconciling of the guilty in her “communion with” the passion of Christ: “What the Son bestowed upon the world by His passion, the Mother bestowed upon the world by her communion with it, reconciling the guilty and the sinners by her co-passion, after having obtained the Redemption of the whole world through her giving birth to the Redeemer.” (3) He goes on to speak of Our Lady’s suffering with Jesus at Calvary: “Her tears were mingled with (His) perspiration and tears, with the water and the blood that trickled from the wounds of her Son, in order to blot out the stains of souls.” (4)
The greatest of all Franciscan theologians, St. Bonaventure († 1274), promulgates in his own expressions the breakthroughs of St. Bernard and Arnold regarding the Mother’s Coredemption. The Seraphic Doctor shows that the New Eve doctrine of Coredemption taught by the Church Fathers is fulfilled in Jesus and Mary as the “repairers” of the human race: “Just as they (Adam and Eve) were the destroyers of the human race, so these (Jesus and Mary) were its repairers.” (5)
St. Bonaventure explicitly relates the patristic principles of Recapitulation and Recirculation (6) to the suffering of Mary at Calvary for our Redemption. Mary “bought us,” and she “paid the price” (7) with Jesus on the cross: “That woman (namely Eve), drove us out of Paradise and sold us; but this one (Mary) brought us back again and bought us.” (8) The Mystical Father of Franciscan theology declares that Mary “also merited reconciliation for the entire human race”; (9) that she “co-offered” the divine victim on Calvary; (10) and she offered “satisfaction” for our sins. (11)
Contemporaneous with the Franciscan contribution to Marian Coredemption comes a most significant Dominican contribution from St. Albert the Great († 1280), mentor to St. Thomas Aquinas and Church Doctor in his own right. St. Albert teaches that the Virgin Mary exercised the “principle of association or participation” (12) with Christ in the Redemption of the human race, and that she “participated in all of his same acts.” (13)
“Pseudo-Albert” soon follows the Great Albert and elaborates and systematizes the same “principium consortii” of Mary in Redemption in the renowned work, Mariale. (14) In this work, the author calls Mary the “co-helper of the redemption” (co-adjutrix redemptionis); (15) affirms that at Calvary, Mary the New Eve helped Christ “to regenerate the human race to the life of grace”; (16) and speaks eloquently of her compassion as the adjutrix or “helpmate” of Redemption at Golgotha:
To her (Mary) alone was given this privilege, namely, a communication in the Passion; to her the Son willed to communicate the merit of the Passion, in order that He could give the reward; and in order to make her a sharer in the benefit of Redemption, He willed that she be a sharer in the penalty of the Passion, in so far as she might become the Mother of all through re-creation even as she was the adjutrix of the Redemption by her co-passion. And just as the whole world is bound to God by His supreme Passion, so also it is bound to the Lady of all by her co-passion. (17)
Mary uniquely participates in the Passion. Mary uniquely merits in its accomplishment. The world is uniquely bound to her, in virtue of her co-passion, Mother of us all through our re-creation.
At the beginning of the fourteenth century, the great Franciscan champion of the Immaculate Conception, Bl. John Duns Scotus (†1308) uses the title, “Redemptrix,” in recording a typical scholastic objection to the Immaculate Conception and Mary’s role in Redemption, which Duns Scotus then refutes. (18)
At this historical point enters the mystical contribution of St. Bridget of Sweden († 1373). The Revelations, the written record of a series of visions and prophecies granted to St. Bridget by Jesus and Mary, are highly regarded and reverenced by the Church during the Middle Ages, including a large number of popes, bishops, and theologians. (19) The revealed words spoken by both Jesus and His Mother regarding Our Lady’s coredemptive role are truly significant in the development of the Co-redemptrix doctrine, as they will influence numerous theologians during the seventeenth century “Golden Age” of Coredemption, some three hundred years later.
The Mother of Sorrows reveals in these prophetic visions through St. Bridget that “My son and I redeemed the world as with one heart.” (20) Jesus confirms the same truth in his own words: “My Mother and I saved man as with one Heart only, I by suffering in My Heart and My Flesh, she by the sorrow and love of her Heart.” (21) It is difficult to argue with the supernatural testimony from such a Church-sanctioned and revered prophecy regarding the role of Mary Co-redemptrix—a testimony from the lips of the Redeemer and the Co-redemptrix themselves. The medievals, as a whole, did not.
The Rhineland Mystic, John Tauler († 1361) offers his own theological and mystical contribution to Mary Co-redemptrix. Like no other author before him, this Dominican theologian articulates with precision the sacrificial offering of the Mother at Calvary.
In the teachings of Tauler, the Mother of Jesus offers herself with Jesus as a living victim for the salvation of all, (22) and the Eternal Father accepts this oblation of Mary for the salvation of the entire human race: “God accepted her oblation as a pleasing sacrifice, for the utility and salvation of the whole human race . . . so that, through the merits of her sorrows, she might change God’s anger into mercy.” (23) In the natural progression of the New Eve patristic Recapitulation brought to its fullness at Calvary, John speaks of the sorrow the Mother plucked from the tree of the cross in order to redeem humanity with her Son: “Just as Eve, boldly plucking from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, destroyed men in Adam, so thou hast taken sorrow upon thyself from the tree of the cross, and with thy suffering sated, thou has redeemed men together with thy Son.” (24)
Addressing Our Lady, Tauler tells us of Mary’s foreknowledge of her co-suffering with Jesus, in which she would share in all his redemptive merits and afflictions: “He foretold to thee (Mary) all thy passion whereby He would make thee a sharer of all His merits and afflictions, and thou would co-operate with Him in the restoration of men to salvation . . . .” (25)
We close this fertile thirteenth and fourteenth century period of Marian Coredemption, so richly fed by a providential blend of theologian and mystic, with the witness of the “mystic of mystics,” St. Catherine of Siena († 1380). The great Church Doctor and Co-patroness of Europe calls the Blessed Mother the “Redemptrix of the human race” both in virtue of giving birth to the Word and for the sorrow of “body and mind” that Our Mother suffers with Jesus: “O Mary . . . bearer of the light . . . Mary, Germinatrix of the fruit, Mary, Redemptrix of the human race because, by providing your flesh in the Word, you redeemed the world. Christ redeemed with His passion and you with your sorrow of body and mind.” (26)
The above article is from Dr. Mark Miravalle's “With Jesus”: The Story of Mary Co-redemptrix, Queenship Publications, 2003.
(1) For example, the influence of St. Faustina’s revelations to the development of the encyclical Dives in Misericordia, or the liturgical development of the Feast of Divine Mercy.
(2) St. Bridget, Revelationes, L. I, c. 35, ed. Rome, ap. S. Paulinum, 1606, p. 56b.
(3) Richard of St. Lawrence, De laudibus Beatae Mariae Virginis, 1. 3, c. 12; inter Opera Sancti Alberti Magni,ed. Vivès, vol. 36, p. 158.
(4) Cf. C. Dillenschneider, Marie au service de notre Rédemption, Haguenau, 1947, p. 246.
(5) St. Bonaventure, Sermo 3 de Assumptione; Opera Omnia, ed. Claras Aquas, vol. 9, p. 695.
(6) While some theologians prefer to use the terms Recapitulation for the Adam-Christ parallel and Recirculation for the Eve-Mary parallel, there is also a danger in restricting the Eve-Mary parallel to the soteriological dimension of Recirculation, and in doing so to infer that the Virgin Mother did not have an active though subordinate role with Christ in the Recapitulation, but only with Christ in the antithetical reversal aspect of the restoration. Mary actively participates in both patristic concepts of Recapitulation and Recirculation, as evident in St. Irenaeus: “Adam had to be Recapitulated in Christ, so that death might be swallowed up in immortality, and Eve (had to be Recapitulated) in Mary, so that the Virgin, having become another virgin’s advocate, might destroy and abolish one virgin’s disobedience by the obedience of another virgin” (Proof of Apostolic Preaching 33, SC 62, p. 83).
(7) Cf. St. Bonaventure, De donis Spiritus Sancti, collatio 6, n. 5/17; Opera Omnia, ed. Claras Aquas, 1882-1902, vol. 5, p. 484.
(8) St. Bonaventure, de don. Sp. 6; 14.
(9) St. Bonaventure, In III Sent., dist. 4, art. 3, quaest. 3, concl.; Opera Omnia, ed. Claras Aquas, vol. 3, p. 115.
(10) Cf. St. Bonaventure, De donis Spiritus Sancti, collatio 6, n. 17; Opera Omnia, vol. 5, p. 486.
(11) Ibid., collatio 6, n. 16.
(12) St. Albert the Great, Comment. In Matt. I, 18; Opera Omnia, vol. 37, p. 97; cf. Roschini, Maria Santissima Nella Storia Della Salvezza, vol. 2, p. 184.
(14) Pseudo-Albert, Mariale super Missus est; Opera Omnia.